Many Vanlifers choose a laptop as their companion. My dislike of these mobile devices led me to install a small formfactor desktop as my primary computer for 4K video editing (and all the other ordinary office work).
My Computer Philosophy
I an still remember my first computer, a ZX80 with 1K memory and audio cassette storage media (Do you remember audio cassettes?). That was 40 years ago and much has changed. Computers have massively improved and software has been created for the masses.
Operating Systems have come and gone, two players are left for consumers, MS Windows and Linux. I’ve used Windows from its early start, but when Windows 11 appeared, I moved to Linux and never regretted it.
Linux has some quirky properties, but looks the same as Windows and it’s FREE!!! It’s leaner and easier to install, just a better experience. Its software has pros and cons: its built-in software manager can install virtually every available with one click and every program is FREE too.
Probably the only drawback is, that the quality of software programs for Linux is not always as polished and capable as its Windows counterpart. Don’t misunderstand me, there are programs that are an industry standard, but these are far in between.
Most though are good for average users and why pay $1000s for Adobe Premiere video editing software, when Linux Kdenlive is completely free and produces the same quality 4K videos?
Most Vanlifers probably don’t even consider anything else than a laptop for their daily work or entertainment options, yet my experience with multiple laptops over the years have left me with a desire for something better.
Many of the issues between computers and the van lifestyle can be tackled. A remote keyboard and mouse eases the input, portable hard drives the storage. A small form-factor computer like the Asus PN50/PN51, is much smaller than a laptop and can be stored or installed out of sight. And a portable screen can double as monitor and TV.
Put it all together and you have a built-in home desktop, accessible throughout and around the Van/RV, without the annoying battery issues of a laptop.
Several months ago, I purchased a wireless keyboard and mouse and have been evaluating it since then. Conclusion: convenient, but… 3 Stars. Next step was the Asus PN50, the first fast, 8 core/16 thread small form-factor desktop, which performs better than my current 5 year old Dell. It renders a 4K video at least twice as fast. 5 Stars.
Unresolved for now, is the 17.3″ monitor. A new trend is the low consumption, USB-C portable display. These specific devices, draw their current, alongside their data through one cable that is connected to the computer. Only their price point prevents me from buying such a screen.
On my first trip with the Van to the Florida Panhandle, I brought along an old laptop, to store all the video clips that I would be creating for the channel. That meant permanently connecting to the 12V battery system in the Van. As a consequence the converter was always ON. To prevent that from happening again, I decided to install a new 12V to 19V converter in one of the battery compartments.
A nice button switch in the living area would switch the converter On or Off. The higher amperage within this system, is too much for the button, thus requiring an added relay.
To finish things off, I installed a SAE wall outlet (in this case as a 19V outlet), next to the button in the living area of the Van to power the computer.